________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 16. . . .December 23, 2016



Shane Arbuthnott.
Victoria, BC: Orca, February, 2017.
305 pp., hardcover, pdf & epub, $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1117-1 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1118-8 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1119-5 (epub).

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Rob Bittner.

**½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



All around [Molly], irons clanged and spirits whirled. She wove between the skirmishes, trying to make her way to the port deck. A flock of spirits, glowing bright blue and with wings blurring like hummingbirds’, swooped down at her. They cut at her scalp with razor talons, and Molly gasped in pain. Frantic to get away, she dove through a gap in the foremast’s rigging, losing the spirits in the ropes. She hurried on to the tied-off lines, feeling blood trickle down the back of her neck She looked up to make sure she had the right sail before loosing it.

As soon as she looked up, though, she knew it was too late. The font was shimmering and crackling like a storm cloud, and its size changed so fast that its edges had grown indistinct. With a crack that sounded like the sky splitting open, it vanished completely.


Molly Stout, 14, is the engineer on her father’s airship, the Legerdemain. In the world that she knows, the skies above Terra Nova, Molly and her family search for and capture dangerous spirits that come out of mysterious fonts. These spirits are traded for money and are also used for their various capabilities—they are the cause of “objects levitating, winds strong enough to blast apart rocks, lightning traveling horizontally rather than vertically, beams of sunlight weaving themselves into new shapes.” While on the hunt one day, Molly comes across a spirit that speaks to her in her own language. She captures it but continues to wonder what secrets it might be holding onto.

     Molly’s family is descended from Haviland Stout, the man considered to be responsible for discovering the spirits and first defeating them. But the more Molly searches for answers and speaks with the spirit she captured, the less sure she becomes. After being grounded in Terra Nova due to high taxes and an unsuccessful hunt, Molly’s family is forced to live back on the ground, and Molly, herself, begins to journey into dangerous territory as she unravels the mystery of her family’s past and the truth behind the spirits and their enslavement.

     While the novel does take some time to get going—there is a lot of explanation in the first third of the text—the setting is pretty thoroughly constructed and the characters do become more fleshed out with each chapter. I found myself becoming more intrigued with the premise as I continued reading, riding the twists and turns of Arbuthnott’s narrative. Action fans will certainly be swept up in the plot and will find themselves caught up in Molly’s adventures as she encounters menacing political figures and other dangerous individuals and attempts to uncover the truth about her ancestor, Haviland Stout.

     While I quite enjoyed the book overall, I found the pacing to be uneven, at times pulling me swiftly along and at other times offering me more exposition than necessary. The opening chapter of the book also jumped right into the action, making me feel slightly impatient for explanation. That being said, I did like that Arbuthnott kept certain bits of information hidden until absolutely necessary later on in the text.

     Some librarians and educators may be concerned about Molly’s father’s alcohol consumption and the familial dischord that comes from that. There is also loss of life and some violent encounters between people and spirits, though there is nothing terribly explicit to be concerned about. Neither of these issues are problematic within the story as far as I’m concerned, and I feel that Arbuthnott does rather skillfully navigate what could be some darker themes.

     I think young readers will find a lot to enjoy in this tale, from the flying airships, to the floating docks and land masses tied to giant umbilicals, and the political intrigue. All in all, I believe that fans of Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel, and even to a degree Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld, will find themselves caught up in Molly Stout’s world and her escapades up in the skies of Terra Nova, even amidst some of the structural concerns noted above. Dominion is a fun and enjoyable steampunk-style adventure for later middle-grade and early YA readers.


Rob Bittner is a graduate of the MA in Children’s Literature program at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. He is currently a PhD candidate in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

Next Review | Table of Contents For This Issue - December 23, 2016
CM Home
| Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive